scuba

Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

#Perhentian #perhentianisland #boat #clouds #blue #Malaysia

Without a doubt the single most memorable thing for me about the Perhentian Islands was the intensity of the colour. When the sun was shining down on the rocks, water, or clouds everything was taken to extreme. I loved it.

The reason we travelled to the Perhentian Islands was for diving. During our time on Langkawi Island whenever we mentioned to someone we were looking for a place to possibly go diving, everyone suggested the Perhentian Islands. The embarrassing part for me is I had never heard of them. But after some frantic internet education we decided to check it out for ourselves.

Taking it in

Admittedly, we did not see much of the islands. Our main purpose was diving and quite frankly, it was so damn hot that going for a stroll was a bit punishing. However this little bay just down the beach from our place was heaven. After diving one day we spent the better part of an afternoon relaxing here.

Perhentian Mosque

Several times a day we were reminded where we were by the loudspeakers from the mosque on the other island broadcasting prayers. It is interesting how quickly you acclimatize to these things.

Malaysian Coastguard

On our last day the Coastguard (I believe) did a cruise between the two islands.

During our visit we stayed at Tuna Bay Island Resort, which is located on the larger of the two islands. The food was excellent and the rooms were simple but clean and comfortable. As well, probably the best shower we have experienced since coming to Asia.

Tuna Bay Island Resort Beach

The beach out front of the resort was very nice. A small coral reef has been fostered within the swimming area so snorkelling was excellent right off shore. You did have to watch for the little black and white reef fish as when you stopped moving they liked to bite your legs. Nothing serious, just a hell of a surprise.

Universal Diver

Universal Diver was right next door to the resort and handled their scuba package deals. I found it a little confusing the first day figuring out their routine. However once I had that down the diving was great.

Universal Diver Boat

The gear was first class and the dive masters helped solve the problem of ill fitting fins immediately which made the rest of my dives very comfortable.

The diving was great. Visibility was between 2 and 18 metres, most of the time in the 10 – 12 metre range. We visited a variety of sites which kept everything interesting.

Porcupine Fish

This porcupine fish did not have the most welcoming face, but it was cute the way he was tucked into his little hole.

Crown of Thorns Starfish

Crown of Thorns Starfish. Unfortunately these are best known for having a great appetite for coral.

Giant Clams

Several Giant Clams in the area.

Cartoon Clams

I have no idea what type of clam this is, but I loved the cartoon nature of the opening. The white worm just added to the effect.

Dark Wreck

Just so you don’t think we ever have so/so dives. This wreck needed more time for coral to grow and fish to move in. Due to a head cold Karen had to miss this dive, which she wasn’t that sorry about.

Check out the short video I did of our diving here:

 

Mixing Cultures

One of the interesting things to observe here is the mixture of cultures. The majority of guests here are either Asians or Europeans. Seeing a lady in her bikini walking by a group of girls in their hijabs snorkelling causes no excitement whatsoever. Everybody just does their own thing. Rather refreshing.

And did I mention the colours?

Karen by the Bay

Karen relaxing by the bay.

View From the Beach

Couldn’t help but get this shot as I was laying on the beach.

If you get the chance, come visit the Perhentian Islands. Beautiful, reasonable, and did I mention the colour? Love it here.

Categories: Malaysia, Photography, scuba, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Diving Vietnam

As our time here in Vietnam is winding down we finally took care of an unfinished piece of business. Back in December when we were passing through on our initial tour of Vietnam we went diving in Nha Trang with Sailing Club Divers, www.divenhatrang.com. The dive company was awesome. Great staff, good, reliable equipment, and a well run outing. What they cannot control are the conditions. And in December, they were horrible.

Dive Boat

Everybody on the dive boat received the general briefing, then each group received their individual briefing on what to expect during their dive. We were fortunate to enjoy a ratio of two divers to each Dive Master.

Fast forward three months. Because we were so impressed with Sailing Club Divers we did not hesitate to contact them when we decided to give diving in Nha Trang another chance. We are so happy we did. Our day out with them was everything a day of diving should be. The water was a little chilly at 22C, but the wet suits took care of that. Visibility was excellent. The water was calm with very little to no current, it was wonderful.

Sea horse

We were so pleased to have been able to see a sea horse.

Our Dive Master, Hoang, was the same fellow we dove with in December but this time he actually got to show us stuff. We had a banner day for seeing an incredible variety of creatures. Karen mentioned to him she would love to see a sea horse and though it took some looking, he came through. Along with octopus, scorpion fish, lion fish, more nudibranchs than I can recall, it was a great day.

Cuttlefish

Cuttlefish are the most amazing creatures. The way they adapt their colour to their surroundings is magical.

The video below gives a good idea of the dives that day. Enjoy.

Categories: scuba, travel, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Diving Cambodia

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The views coming out of the old harbour provided some interesting insights into what Cambodia is doing to survive. Not all of it was that pretty.

While we were in Sihanoukville, Cambodia we took the opportunity to do a couple of days of diving with Scuba Nation. We were lucky enough to be the only two clients on the first day and were joined by two other divers on our second day. Both days we were guided by Max with Alison accompanying us as a Dive Master in training.

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Without a doubt the Sihanoukville harbour is not the cleanest or safest looking harbour I have ever seen.

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After picking up fresh bread and fruit on our way to the harbour the first order of business was getting some real coffee in our systems. Max got the coffee going while Alison started to prep the gear. It was kind of nice to be a client again after working on our last dive outing.

As we headed out we went by one of the dredging operations running off the coast of Cambodia. If you ever wonder where all the sand is from that China is using to build their islands, a bunch of it is from the waters of Cambodia. We were informed that these operations are running 24/7, creating massive holes in the bottom of the bays.

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On a brighter side, we were able to see several fishing boats heading to work. Of course the sad part was some of the areas they were fishing are supposed to be protected. Unfortunately this is not enforced.

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We were excited to see what Cambodia had to offer under the water. It was not spectacular, but it was beautiful. Lots of clams, a good variety of fish, a spotted blue ray and even some nudibranchs.

On to the diving though. I have to share that I was very impressed with the the rental equipment and professionalism of our dive master Max. He did thorough and meticulous briefings and confirmed all safety checks were done. As well the dive profiles were set up to ensure plenty of time for a built in safety stop at the end of the dive. Of course this wasn’t too difficult as the deepest we dove was only 14 metres with most time spent at 6 – 9 metres. If you wanted to go deeper you would have to bring a shovel.

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The briefings were concise and thorough. This always tends to make dives that much more enjoyable.

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The one hour trip out in the boat took us to the north end of Koh Rong Sanloem for our first day. We dove “Last Chance” and “Koh Kon South”. If you want a closer look at the map click here.

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We went to the same general area but dove two different sites on day 2. “Mpay Bay” and “Koh Kon West”. If you want a closer look at the map click here.

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This was our dive boat “The Colombe”. Nothing fancy, but nice and stable and more than comfortable enough for the 1 hour commute to the dive sites.

As you may have picked up from some of the photos, the weather was not exactly blue skies and sun shine. However, it is perfect for sitting around in wetsuits and not dying from overheating. The second day provided us with plenty of rain but that is ok, we were wet anyway.

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Most of the second day it was socked in and rainy. But the diving was even better the second day so no complaints here.

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As we returned on the last day we got a good view of where the fishermen live. Certainly a room with a view.

I will finish off with a short video I put together of some of what we saw while diving. The visibility was not great, anywhere from 3 – 10 metres, but still a wonderful couple of days with a great company. If you are ever in the area, try the diving. The busier the industry hopefully the better the waterways can be protected.

 

Categories: Cambodia, Photography, scuba, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Working and Diving on the Great Barrier Reef

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This was our home for 7 days and 6 nights. The floating hotel known as Reef Encounter. It holds a maximum of 42 passengers and approximately 16 staff at any one time.

In mid August we were fortunate enough to be able to return to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef to spend a week on the live aboard “Reef Encounter” The company has an awesome program where once you have been a paying customer on the vessel you can either stay on, or return later to work as a “Hostie”. It is a mutually beneficial program where you do menial labour such as housekeeping, setting and clearing tables, minor cleaning and in exchange you get food, lodging and a couple of dives a day.

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We were not permitted to touch the machines, however they did provide us with the never ending activity of folding laundry when our other chores were complete.

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Three times a day the tables had to be set for meals and we assisted in the serving and clearing up of all meals.

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The only chore performed in the kitchen was dishes. There were lots of dishes. It was phenomenal the gourmet quality meals the lone chef produced from this humble room.

Our days started at 5:30am and typically wrapped up around 9:30pm. It certainly reminded me why I enjoy retirement. We did work hard, but I can honestly say it was fun. Our supervisors were a motivated, hard working fun group and kept the environment upbeat. One day while folding laundry in the wheelhouse (best view imaginable for such a task) some whales were spotted a short distance from the boat. We knew life was going to be ok aboard when all work came to a halt for an impromptu whale watching break for the next 20 minutes.

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The view from in front of the wheel house. A great place to fold laundry and occasionally watch whales.

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The ship had 4 decks plus a helipad on the roof. This was the corridor on deck 3 looking toward the rear of the ship.

It was an interesting experience working on board. On the first couple of days there were some minor waves which kept life interesting. For me the greatest success was day 2 when I was able to stop taking medication for motion sickness. The waves were large enough that standing barefoot in a wet shower stall trying to clean it was tantamount to an audition with Cirque du Soleil.

There are up to 4 hosties on board at any time and we were all kept busy. There was no end to the tasks that need doing, however we still managed 2 or 3, 30 – 45 minute breaks a day plus our 2 dive sessions at 6:30am and 3:30pm. On some of the longer breaks it was nice to just dive in and go for a snorkel over the Reef for 20 – 30 minutes.

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Sunrise from our room. The staff quarters were certainly different from the passengers. But then again you only slept there. The rooms were in the bowels of the ship right by the generator room. The hosties shared one small room with two bunk beds and shared a washroom with two regular staff who were in the other room in that corner of the boat.

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A regular visitor later in the day was the Grey Whaler Sharks which joined the other fish circling the boat. Beautifully graceful animals.

Did I mention the reason for all this work was the two dives a day. It was awesome. Though if you do this program I would recommend having your own dive computer. As a hostie you get whatever equipment is available, so you cannot use the integrated dive computer in the BCD to manage your multiply dives, you must use tables. This is not a big deal, but you certainly have more worry free time below the waves when you are using a computer that is tracking your time.

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Without a doubt the best way to start a day. We got up at 5:30, set the dining room/saloon for breakfast and would be in the water before 6:30, just as the sun was rising. Magical.

In the week we were out there we visited less than half a dozen dive sites, which was perfect. It allowed one to get familiar with an area and be happy to descend and just doddle around with your dive buddy soaking in the beauty. The Dive Master kept close tabs on everyone’s times and depths, but as a hostie you were free to explore the area to whatever degree you were comfortable with.

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We found this metre long grouper still sleeping as we descended on a morning dive.

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At times it was overwhelming the variety of life around us. Between clams, dead and alive, coral, fish and starfish, the view was endless.

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As the Rio Summer Olympics were on at the time we had to make sure we flew the flag in honour of all the Canadian athletes competing.

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The dive deck on the stern of the ship made entering and exiting the water relatively easy and simple for both snorkelers and divers.

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The view of the dive deck as you ascend at the end of your dive. There were always fish of varying sizes enjoying the shade under the boat.

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My most enjoyable time below the surface was spent just hovering over the coral observing the incredible variety of fish and other creatures interacting. The diversity simply left me in awe.

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The photographer from the boat capturing images of the beautiful schools of fish swooping by.

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Waiting on the back of the boat for the sun to show its face so we can start our dive. A pretty incredible way to start any day.

I have to say this has been some of the most relaxing diving I have done. Because we were out for several days and knew there was no rush to see everything, the sense of urgency that sometimes makes its presence known was not there. The time between dives was occupied by simple but necessary tasks and helped pass the time quickly and enjoyably. The time in the water, whether diving or snorkelling was inspiring. A great reminder to stop and soak in what is around you. The world is a pretty amazing place and our week on the Reef helped to remind me of just that. As our friends in Costa Rica would say          “Pura Vida!”

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I want to say a big “Thank You” to all the crew aboard Reef Encounter, but especially to Rachel, Sophie, and Jenny for being patient with our learning curve. We were always made to feel welcome and helpful, even when we didn’t get the folds on the beds quite right.

Categories: Australia, Photography, Queensland, scuba, travel | 2 Comments

Diving South Australia

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A Leafy Sea Dragon at Rapid Bay Jetty. One of the coolest animals I have ever seen. Amazing camouflage.

On a recent road trip between Melbourne and Adelaide we took the opportunity to do a couple of days of diving. In Geelong, just outside of Melbourne we went out for a single tank dive and a snorkel. To be honest, not the best diving we have done in a while. The operators were good and the equipment was good, but “Man!” was the water cold. We certainly have become spoiled over the last couple of years. The water temperature was 11C and even though the 7mil wetsuits did their job there is just no minimising that initial shock as you hit the water. The first dive was at a place called Pope’s Eye. Lots of kelp and fish but between the current and the cold we did not enjoy that dive as much as we could have. Still beats the hell out of working though.

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Chinaman’s Hat is home to a colony of Australian Fur Seals.

After the dive, the boat headed over to a snorkel location called Chinaman’s Hat. It was rather humorous seeing a bunch of humans jumping in the water to swim around this structure while a couple of dozen Fur Seals stayed out of the water watching us. One eventually joined us in the water and I was able to get a little bit of video of it as it was playing in the water near us.

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Wirrina Cove Marina where we met the dive operator. Very out of the way and quiet.

The best diving by far was when we got to South Australia and met up with Underwater Sports Dive Centre at Wirrina Cove, a bit south of Adelaide, and headed out in their boat “Aladdin”. The rental equipment they provided was top notch and their professionalism was what one expects in a dive operator. Other than the excellent rental gear they brought to the dock for us, the first hint we were in for an outstanding day was the classic rock music coming from the boat as we walked down the jetty. We received a basic briefing before leaving the harbour, then the music was cranked and we cruised out for the short trip to the exHMAS Hobart dive site.

The briefing at the exHMAS Hobart was fantastic. Complete with diagrams and explanations we knew exactly what to expect and what the plan was before we got in the water. As well, we had two apprenticing dive masters along with the official dive master going down with us. We were very well looked after. I have to admit a slight bit of nervousness went through me when I realised Karen and I were the only two without any type of personal anti shark devices on our bodies. The apprentice dive master explained that he had one that was intended to cast a wider range of protection. It was not until later that I learned that the effectiveness of this technology is still being discussed. It did make me feel better at the time.

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Anti shark array. Intended to cause confusion in the sharks target acquisition system.

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An Old Wife fish swimming through the kelp on the exHMAS Hobart.

The visibility on the Hobart was a bit limited but it was still an excellent dive. The wreck is in great shape with an amazing amount of sponges and marine life encapsulating it. When we came up from the dive the skipper had the song “Ghost Riders in the Sky” playing over the speakers on the boat. It was the theme song adopted by the crew of the Hobart when she was in service. It rounded out the experience nicely.

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Sausage sizzle on the Aladdin. An Australian tradition for social outings and a great snack during the surface interval.

During the surface interval between dives we headed over to Rapid Bay jetty. This site can be accessed from shore but is much simpler from a boat. The old jetty has been abandoned by a mining company and now serves as a fishing and diving destination. The water beneath the jetty is teeming with life and with the columns rising to the surface and the sun casting shadows it becomes an other worldly experience. The dive masters also delivered on finding a Leafy Sea Dragon for us to observe. Certainly one of the coolest animals I have ever seen.

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This cowfish was one of dozens of different types of fish we found under the jetty.

With the Rapid Bay Jetty dive being only 8 metres deep it provides the perfect ending to the day. You basically can stay down as long as your air holds out and there is an endless variety of nudibranchs, sponges, fish, and other sea life to entertain you. The video is a brief glimpse at some of the sights we were fortunate enough to take in. Please enjoy.

Categories: Australia, Photography, scuba, travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Diving on the Great Barrier Reef

Sunrise over the Great Barrier Reef.

Sunrise over the Great Barrier Reef.

Our home for 3 days with the dive operator Reef Encounter.

Our home for 3 days with the dive operator Reef Encounter.

Truly the highlight of our three weeks in the Cairns area of Queensland was three days spent on the live a board ‘Reef Encounter’. We were taken out to the Great Barrier Reef on a fast catamaran, then transferred over to the floating hotel.

Everyday new customers were brought out and later in the day other customers were taken back. We all had to transit the gangway between the ships.

Everyday new customers were brought out and later in the day other customers were taken back. We all had to transit the gangway between the ships.

We were both very surprised and pleased at what we encountered on the ship. The rooms were very large (bearing in mind you are on a boat), the food was good, and the staff were very friendly. The quality of the gear was excellent.

Every room on the boat had a bin assigned so you could store your wet gear outside your room.

Every room on the boat had a bin assigned so you could store your wet gear outside your room.

We did a total of ten dives while out on the reef. It was like being in a wonderland under the surface. Around every corner there were colourful fish and coral. The weather was perfect for us and the visibility at its worst was 10 – 11 metres.

Giant clams live over 100 years. This one was just over one metre long.

Giant clams live over 100 years. This one was just over one metre long.

The variety was amazing. The dive where we saw the least was the night dive. This was mainly because there were so many Giant Trevally (check out the video link lower down) swimming with us that nothing else dared be out. Every small fish I saw was immediately set upon by half a dozen GT’s and consumed, so I made an effort not to spotlight smaller fish.

One of the dozens of different types of anemones you see on the reef.

One of the dozens of different types of anemones you see on the reef.

A smaller giant clam, only about 50cm long.

A smaller giant clam, only about 50cm long.

I was quite taken with the giant clams. They were all over the place, some free standing and others totally encapsulated by other coral.

The colours of these giant clams was amazing. These one was almost iridescent.

The colours of these giant clams was amazing. This one was almost iridescent.

Some fish just had that look that suggested it was best to just keep floating along.

Some fish just had that look that suggested it was best to just keep floating along.

The most excitement I had was when I apparently encroached on a Trigger fish’s area and it attacked me. It struck at my fins twice before landing a solid bite on the back of my left arm. I had to kick at it with my fins until I was able to retreat from it’s area. Certainly a great reminder as to who is the visitor under the water.

These Moorish Idol fish were alway seen in pairs cruising for food.

These Moorish Idol fish were alway seen in pairs cruising for food.

Karen posing with her favourite underwater creature, the Hawksbill Turtle.

Karen posing with her favourite underwater creature, the Hawksbill Turtle.

There were Hawksbill turtles on nearly every dive, and once we knew what to look for we ‘found Nemo’ everywhere.

There were many fish that I simply could not identify. The numbers were truly overwhelming.

There were many fish that I simply could not identify. The numbers were truly overwhelming.

One of many blue starfish on the reef.

One of many blue starfish on the reef.

The French Angelfish turned up everywhere.

The French Angelfish turned up everywhere.

One of the neatest things to observe was how different types of coral provided a home and a degree of protection to schools of smaller fish. Truly, one could just hover over a patch of coral for 15 – 20 minutes and just watch the complex symphony of life play out in front of you.

A couple of Clown Fish peeking out from their protective sea anemone.

A couple of Clown Fish peeking out from their protective sea anemone.

There were dozens of examples of a specific type of fish living around a specific coral formation.

There were dozens of examples of a specific type of fish living around a specific coral formation.

Before I say farewell from the Great Barrier Reef I will leave you with a video of our time below the surface in the wonderful example of mother nature at work.

On our last day on the Great Barrier Reef.

On our last day on the Great Barrier Reef.

 

Categories: Australia, Photography, scuba, travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Things to do in Queensland

Having some fun while waiting for the ferry to Moreton Island.

Having some fun while waiting for the ferry to Moreton Island.

The last couple of months have been very busy with house sitting and visiting. However, luckily we have some great friends and family here in Queensland who have gone out of their way to share their backyard with us. The last touristy thing we did in the Brisbane area before heading north was to visit Moreton Island. This is mainly a four wheel drive destination and I have to admit after watching the rigs loading onto the ferry for the trip to the island, Aussies take their back country camping very seriously. If however you are just going for the day it is still a great trip.

Looking north off the ferry. You can see the wreaks in the right edge of the photo.

Looking north off the ferry. You can see the wreaks in the right edge of the photo.

Off the ferry you hang a right and walk a couple of hundred metres up the beach and stake out your spot. There are police, rangers and EMS here, but from what we saw during the day people do an excellent job of policing themselves.

Welcome as you come off the ferry.

Welcome as you come off the ferry.

The snorkelling is best done at high tide, which fortunately for us was 90 minutes after we arrived. We took the time to ask the life guard which way the current was going then headed out for a couple of wonderfully relaxing drifts along the wrecks. There have been 15 ship sunk here to provide protection to the beach and a great area for snorkelling. Visibility varied from 4 to 10 metres.

A trumpet fish cruising the wreaks.

A trumpet fish cruising the wrecks.

 

Lots of sharp edges to be careful of. It was nice to see people take responsibility for themselves and beware of the hazards.

Lots of sharp edges to be careful of. It was nice to see people take responsibility for themselves and being aware of the hazards.

 

A plentiful variety of fish can be found amongst the wreaks.

A plentiful variety of fish can be found amongst the wrecks.

 

A glimpse of the Glass House Mountains as we sailed back to the Port of Brisbane after a day in the sun.

A glimpse of the Glass House Mountains as we sailed back to the Port of Brisbane after a day in the sun.

Shortly after our trip to Moreton Island we packed our things and flew the 1600km north to Cairns. Everyone here asked us, “Why are you going to Cairns in January?” Now I understand why. Hot and humid is the order of the day. Tried to do a run this morning at 6AM, it was 28C and 94% humidity. Way more challenging than I ever would have thought. Luckily there are more relaxed things to do.

Going for a cool dip in the river at Mossman Gorge with Karen's Aunt.

Going for a cool dip in the river at Mossman Gorge with Karen’s Aunt.

Karen’s Aunt and Uncle were so kind to us and toured us around the area before we started our house sit in Edmonton. I started to appreciate the comments about the things in Australia that can kill you. Most specifically, Saltwater crocodiles (Salties).

No matter how hot and uncomfortable you may be, this is one river you never want to cool off in or even dangle your feet in.

No matter how hot and uncomfortable you may be, this is one river you never want to cool off in or even dangle your feet in.

The day after we visited the Daintree and Mossman Gorge we did a tour of Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure, which is a crocodile farm that also does tours and talks on animals in the area. These are serious crocs. No wrestling and putting your head in these guys jaws, well, only once.

Year old crocs in one of the pens. These fellows will be bags and boots in a couple of years.

Year old crocs in one of the pens. These fellows will be bags and boots in a couple of years.

 

Don't think because you are out of the water you are safe.

Don’t think because you are out of the water you are safe.

 

This was one of the "small" females on display.

This was one of the “small” females on display.

 

This was the largest one in the interpretive show. Absolutely incredible the power and speed in their jaws.

This was the largest one in the interpretive show. Absolutely incredible the power and speed in their jaws.Look at the size of his head!

I was quite impressed with the crocs. They did have other animals there but the Salties steal the show.

This one is for you Jennifer. They truly were cute little fellows.

This Kookaburro is for you Jennifer. They truly were cute little fellows.

We also managed to get a tour of Port Douglas and some of the amazing views along the coastal highway. An absolutely beautiful area.

A view of the beach in Port Douglas, Australia from Flagstaff Hill.

A view of the beach in Port Douglas, Australia from Flagstaff Hill.

There may be better times of year to be in this area when it comes to the heat but the beauty is timeless. Well worth the trip north.

 

Categories: Australia, Photography, Queensland, scuba, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hawaii

First off, I have to say that I am not sure that a cruise ship is the best way to see the Hawaiian islands. Not to say I did not enjoy it, but it is a bit limiting and quite frankly a bit expensive to experience the islands from a cruise ship. We stopped at Hilo, Kona, Lahaina, and finally Honolulu with the cruise ship before renting a car and spending the last three days on the north shore of Oahu at a place called Turtle Bay. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Hilo, on the island of Hawaii was my most anticipated stop. As my mother and myself were booked in for a hike around and through a volcanic crater. Our guide, Leo, was excellent and provided a non-stop flow of information. The day was perfect for a hike and we had a lovely time.

My mother and I at the halfway point of our hike around and through the Kilauea volcano crater.

My mother and I at the halfway point of our hike around and through the Kilauea volcano crater.

At the end of the hike we had a chance to explore a lava tube which was cool and provided me with the perfect excuse to haul out my tripod that I had been carrying all around the volcano. On the return to the ship we also did the obligatory side trip to the macadamia nut plant and gift shop. There is one place I wish I had shares in. I’m fairly sure everyone on every tour is delivered to this destination. They are delicious nuts though.

We got a chance to explore the Thurston lava tubes. Very impressive.

We got a chance to explore the Thurston lava tubes. Very impressive.

A couple of the more exciting points during our stops are where we had to take tenders from the ship to shore. Boarding these tenders in the harbour is a piece of cake, however, embarking and disembarking from the ship to the tender was a whole different story. If you happen to be changing vessels at the right time you would wonder what all the excitement was about. But if you were in transit as even light swells were going through it was like a ride at the Stampede (Calgary Stampede reference for you non Calgarians). The height difference between the two decks would go from zero to a metre (3 feet) with very little warning. The crew members were fantastic in working to keep passengers safe, however the Darwinian urges of some of the passengers helped me understand how people could get hurt during these operations.

Due to the depth of the harbours at Kona and Lahaina we had to take tenders to and from shore.

Due to the depth of the harbours at Kona and Lahaina we had to take tenders to and from shore.

Crew members standing by to assist passengers with disembarking from the tender at the side of the ship.

Crew members standing by to assist passengers with disembarking from the tender at the side of the ship.

In Kona, Karen and I took the opportunity to head out with a small group to do some scuba diving at a couple of sites just off shore. Big Island Water Sports are a small outfit who provide great service. We were fortunate that the group of six were all competent divers and needed a minimum of guidance, which makes for a more relaxed outing and plenty of time to explore.

Lots of Yellow tangs darting around the volcanic reefs.

Lots of yellow tangs darting around the volcanic reefs.

Moorish idol fish drifting around in groups of three or four.

Moorish idol fish drifting around in groups of three or four.

This white mouthed more eel cam out to say hello as I was going by.

This white mouthed Moray eel came out to say hello as I was going by.

The small reef fish were plentiful and beautifully coloured. The coral growing over the volcanic rock made for a stunning backdrop for the fish. It was the first chance I had to use my new underwater light so the colours were even brighter than I expected. At the second dive sight we were treated to an absolute mobbing of dolphins as we approached the site but unfortunately they all went elsewhere by the time we got in the water. Great day of diving though.

Heading to our second dive site. With our ship in the background. Great staff on the boat.

Heading to our second dive site. With our ship in the background. Great staff on the boat.

As we returned to the ship after diving I was able to get a reverse shoot of our cabin from water level. Circling this ship in a little tender certainly brings home the size of these vessels.

Our room was on the second row of balconies from the bottom on the left. Great location.

Our room was on the second row of balconies from the bottom on the left. Great location.

Our stop in Lahaina marked a milestone. It was my sister’s first Lu’au and first proper Hawaiian Lei. Everyone had a great time at the Old Lahaina Lu’au. The food was excellent and the entertainment non stop.

A much anticipated event of our time in Hawaii was my sister attending her first luʻau and getting a proper lei.

A much anticipated event in Hawaii was my sister attending her first luʻau and getting a proper Hawaiian lei.

I have to put one last plug in for the entertainment onboard the ship. The productions were first class and the performer were excellent.

I have to put one last plug in for the entertainment onboard the ship. The productions were first class and the performers were excellent. This was the last show during our time on the ship.

Our last port of call with the ship was Honolulu. This worked exceptionally well as we were on the ship for two nights here, giving us a whole day to explore Honolulu before departing northbound. We did a bunch of walking before getting tickets for the Waikiki Trolley Tour. It is a hop on hop off kind of set up, but quite frankly I was fine with just hopping on and enjoying views and commentary.

Packed in the Waikiki Trolley Tour around Honolulu. The full tourist experience.

Packed in the Waikiki Trolley Tour around Honolulu. The full tourist experience.

King Kamehameha at the King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Centre in Honolulu on the island of Oahu.

King Kamehameha at the King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Centre in Honolulu on the island of Oahu.

The trolley did a trip out to Diamond Head which afforded beautiful views of the shore and the surrounding hills and volcanoes.

A view down the south shore of Oahu. One of the stops on our Waikiki Trolley tour.

A view down the south shore of Oahu. One of the stops on our Waikiki Trolley tour.

The last sunset from the balcony of our stateroom on the ship looking west across the harbour entrance in Honolulu.

The last sunset from the balcony of our stateroom on the ship looking west across the harbour entrance in Honolulu.

From Honolulu we rented a Jeep to drive north to Turtle Bay along the north shore. Unfortunately the weather was a bit overcast and rainy, but still a wonderful area with great beaches and facilities along the roads.

The north shore of Oahu in Turtle Bay.

The north shore of Oahu in Turtle Bay.

Hawaii is a wonderful holiday destination and a great place to enjoy sun and sand. However, I must be truthful and admit it was tainted a bit by the sad farewells and ‘see you laters’ with my Mom and sister. As well as the mystery and draw of what awaited us in the southern hemisphere. Life is not always filled with easy choices.

Enjoying the view on the north shore of Oahu. Looking forward to our next adventure.

Enjoying the view on the north shore of Oahu. Looking forward to our next adventure.

Categories: Hawaii, Photography, scuba, transportation, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Back to Diving

Belize Pro Dive Center's new boat. Specifically for trips to the Blue Hole.

Belize Pro Dive Center’s new boat. Specifically for trips to the Blue Hole.

One of the biggest thrills for us being back in Belize is the chance to do some fantastic diving. Our dive operator of choice is Belize Pro Dive Center. There are some excellent companies on the island, but of the few we have tried these guys and gal are the best. Part of the excitement was being able to be part of the group which made the first trip to the Blue Hole in their new boat “Wish You Had It!”. As well we took this chance to add another specialty to our diving resume by taking the Deep Dive Course. It dovetailed well with the trip to the Blue Hole.

The trip out to the Blue Hole was awesome. We were picked up at 5:30 at the pier by our condo and treated to a light breakfast at the dive shop before heading out as the sun rose across the water. As an added bonus the waters were very calm and we were able to take a straight line to our destination. When the water is rough you need to follow the reef around or risk being smashed senseless by the waves. The direct route saves 15 to 30 minutes, so we arrived in about 2 hours 10 minutes.

 

Karen getting ready for her vertical descent into the Blue Hole.

Karen getting ready for her vertical descent into the Blue Hole.

The Blue Hole dive is to the limit of recreational diving. We descended along a slope to approximately 10m (33ft) then you basically step off into the abyss. It is not actually an abyss as the bottom is about 130m (400ft+) below you, but if you went to the bottom the result would be the same as an abyss for a recreationally equiped and trained diver.

The group we were with was great and the dive masters watched over everyone very carefully making it a fun and relaxed dive. When you get to the 40m (130ft ) level dozens of stalagtites appear beside you on a small overhang. Very cool swimming around these geological features.

A few Reef Sharks came by as we were ascending out of the Blue Hole. Just checking us out.

A few Reef Sharks came by as we were ascending out of the Blue Hole. Just checking us out.

On the way up we were visited by some reef sharks. Other than those sharks there was not a lot of life to observe on this particular dive.

After finishing at the Blue Hole the crew took us to the Half Moon Caye dive site. By many this is considered the best dive of the day and it certainly did not disappoint. We were treated to some great swim throughs as well as a vast variety of fish. An outstanding dive.

It was busy at Half Moon Caye for our lunch break and extended surface interval.

 After our second dive we headed over to Half Moon Caye for lunch. It is a fairly busy area as this is where all the dive charters come for lunch. The area of the Blue Hole is a protected area, therefore you cannot just go and land on whatever caye you wish. On Half Moon Caye you also have the opportunity to observe a colony of Redfooted Booby Birds.

Ian, one of the Dive Masters, took time at lunch to add to his video library. He launched his drone to video Half Moon Caye from an aerial perspective.

 

 

A hogfish just cruising by.

Our last dive of the day was at an area called The Aquarium. It is a very descriptive and appropriate choice for the name. The number and diversity of fish in this area is difficult to comprehend. We enjoyed a relaxed and unhurried dive through this wonderland. An excellent way to wind up the day.

It is quite a challenge trying to get photos of the dozens of little fish darting in and around the coral. Just manged to catch this Rock Beauty before it disappeared.

The Blue Hole is not a cheap place to dive, but if you dive and you come to Belize it is simply something that has to be done. We returned home after a full day tired and satified. I recommend this outing to anyone who loves spending time below the waves.
 

 

Categories: Belize, scuba, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Playing the Tourist

Getting ready for a trip up the beach on the horses.

Getting ready for a trip up the beach on the horses.

After settling in to a comfortable routine on the coast in Costa Rica, we were fortunate to be able to get together with some fellow gringos and take part in some of the more touristy activities in the area. First up is horseback riding. There is a wonderful gentleman with a place on the road into Playa Matapalo, Angel, who does horseback tours. He arrived at our neighbours house at the agreed upon time with three horses in tow and sun hats for everyone.

The view as we went down the beach. Absolutely gorgeous.

The view as we went down the beach. Absolutely gorgeous.

After making sure we knew what we were doing with the horses and giving us a briefing, we were off. Angel provided an entertaining monolog of the sights and points of interest as we went along. Angel’s english is limited, but his ability to make himself understood was truly impressive. Whether it was speaking slow enough so we could interpret in our own minds or hand gestures and even drawing in the sand when necessary.

Half way point rest stop. Parts of my body were needing the break by now.

Half way point rest stop. Parts of my body were needing the break by now.

Angel had a wonderful spot for us to rest about halfway through the 3 hour tour. He put on a wonderful show, demonstrating the different types of coconuts and their tastes as well as the mangroves and explaining their importance. On the way back we detoured into the trees and had the opportunity to sample cashew fruit, mangos, star fruit, and an interesting little fruit that looked like a plum but had a huge seed. Quite tasty. Imagine just riding along and being able to reach up and pick fresh fruit from a tree. It was very cool.

Angel showing us how to open a coconut.

Angel showing us how to open a coconut.

Nearing the end of an awesome morning.

Nearing the end of an awesome morning.

I would highly recommend Angel for horseback tours. He is very reasonably priced, the horses have a great temperament (they just ignore the dogs when they come running at you barking), and he puts on a great show.

One of the beautiful waterfalls we got to swim in.

One of the beautiful waterfalls we got to swim in.

Next in the set of adventures was a trip to find some newly opened hot springs. Some would say, “What’s the adventure?” and that is a fair question. But let me set the context. Our neighbour says to us, “Would you like to come along and see if we can find a new hot springs everyone is talking about, but no one has been to yet?”. We look at each other, shrug our shoulders and say, sure. The “tour” consists of a taxi driver, Leo, showing up in a 4×4 Ford Nasa with the gringos and Leo piling in the front of the 4 door truck and our tour guide and his helper jumping in the box and us setting off for 50 minutes on a brutal back woods track to a home just outside of Las Bocas. Leo seemed to know where he was heading but is so casual about it it actually starts to make one a little nervous. However, the fellows delivered in style. We arrived at a homestead where they have just completed putting seats in the hot spring pools.

Karen enjoying the hot springs. Not super hot, but comfortably warm considering it is about 30C out.

Karen enjoying the hot springs. Not super hot, but comfortably warm considering it is about 30C out.

Enjoying a hydro massage in the creek that runs right below the springs. It was a natural slip and slide that made you want to play like a kid again.

Enjoying a hydro massage in the creek that runs right below the springs. It was a natural slip and slide that made you want to play like a kid.

The owners dog checked us out after he finished sitting in the creek to cool down.

The owners dog checked us out after he finished sitting in the creek to cool down.

After relaxing and enjoying the springs and creek we were taken to two other waterfalls in close proximity. We were able to swim in both and only saw 4 or 5 locals at one of the falls. Other than them we had the place to ourselves.

Our guide showing us how to get a massage from the falls.

Our guide showing us how to get a massage from the falls.

Wonderfully secluded waterfall about 200 metres off the track. Something was nibbling our toes in this pond.

Wonderfully secluded waterfall about 200 metres off the track. Something was nibbling our toes in this pond.

We had a full day of touring around the local waterfalls and getting a peek at what the locals are able to enjoy everyday. We count ourselves as very fortunate to have been included in this adventure.

The last trip was to go diving off the coast of Manuel Antonio Park, just outside of Quepos. There is only one dive shop operating in this area and they are Oceans Unlimited. The rental gear was adequate and the boat we went out on was great. The dive master was a young lady who certainly knew her underwater creatures well. There were only 8 of us in the group, including the dive master and assistant dive master so that made for a nice sized group.

The diving itself was not the best. The visibility sucked (3 metres, 12 feet at best) and the terrain is not terribly inspiring. However, having said that, any day under the water is a good day in my books. We did see some nice fish and a cool little eel with lots of attitude. Once you got close enough the plant life was colourful as well.

It is fun once in a while to play the tourist. Kind of like taking a holiday from the grind of house sitting on the coast. Oh well, back to work.

Categories: Costa Rica, Photography, scuba, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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